Student Voices: Jerry Craft’s Visit to Kellee’s Middle School

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I am so lucky because my principal began an initiative at my school where we get to have an author visit our school yearly (2023: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 2022: Nathan Hale, 2020: Neal Shusterman, 2019: Jennifer A. Nielsen). The author sees all students in the school, so it is a great community literacy event for my school, and I love being able to bring this experience to all of my students each year!

  

This year, we hosted NEWBERY-WINNING AUTHOR Jerry Craft!
The visit was phenomenal and included 5 presentations for approximately 220 kids and book signings. It was all such an amazing experience!

Here are some reflections from my students after the visit. I asked them to think about what they learned, what they enjoyed, how they were impacted, or anything else they wanted to share:

  • Having an author visit yearly means a lot because it shows that our school cares for us.
  • I thought that the day was overall amazing. My biggest takeaway from the experience was that something you hate when you’re young could end up being your passion. This visit impacted me by making me feel like I could do anything. To me, these author visits make me feel like I can do anything with my life and it inspires me to read a lot more. This visit was important to me because I felt that Jerry Craft was really the person who could inspire people to read.
  • I am very glad that Jerry Craft was able to come to our school because he had a great presentation and he was good at educating all of us in a very fun and entertaining way. I think it was cool how Jerry Craft was able to draw a perfect circle for all of his 5 presentations! That was pretty cool, I can’t even draw a perfect one, lol. This visit impacted me because whenever the authors come to visit our school and tell us about their books, it always inspires me to be more creative and to be able to reach their level of creativity. Having authors come to visits means to me that I can look forward to skipping a class period to listen to an expert about all of their writing strategies, ideas, etc. This visit was important because it is good for us kids to be able to hear about all of the different authors and what they do to make each of their books different than the others.
  • My biggest take away, was that Jerry Craft said, that he didn’t read a lot as a kid, which was weird to me because I was always told that normally, authors read a lot to get inspiration, but I think is not always like that.

  • It showed me that you should always go into something saying you can do it because if you say you can’t you won’t be able to. You have to put your mind to it so you can do it.
  • Having an author visit yearly help is important and means a lot to me because I love seeing how different authors see different things in different ways and the challenges they face to become who they are in the present. It also helps me learn more about myself because taking some bits of what they say can reflect choices in my present and future and I appreciate the authors for coming and Mrs. Moye for getting these authors for us to enjoy and being caring for us.
  • The biggest takeaway I took from that visit is that no matter how much you prepare for something, you never know what you are going to end up as.
  • The visit impacted me by showing authors are people too they don’t just write books because they have to but because they are inspired.
  • I feel like hearing from an author yearly is just amazing and how they got from the beginning of their life to how they are right now.
  • I thought this visit was important because it helped me understand different people POVs and how their life as an author works.
  • I loved the way he talked about his goals and how his dreams never stop.
  • Having a yearly author visit to me means that I get to learn the creative processes of famous authors.

  • Learning about the work that goes into making books makes me feel more connected to the books that I read.
  • It feels special that we learn something from someone who created a successful book.
  • It made me realize I could do so much in life if i don’t give up and keeping working toward it.
  • I think my biggest takeaway was how, in the end, he kind of “taught” us how to draw different things and how even if you think you won’t be able to draw something good, you can if you believe you’ll be able to.
  • This visit was important because it showed me that even when people don’t think you’ll be able to do anything with your dream if you believe you can, you can show other people that they’re wrong.
  • As this will be my last year, I saw that over the years, all authors have said different things that impacted me throughout my life in middle school.
  • I really enjoyed the day. Mr. Craft was super nice and I found his presentation very interesting. My biggest takeaway was that even if you fail a lot, never give up and keep trying because you will succeed eventually. One thing that impacted me was how Mr. Craft said a lot about how you can do anything even if you think you can’t. Take the little steps that lead up to that goal. I like having a yearly author visitor because it helps me learn more about the people who wrote some of the books that I really liked and how they made them. I like seeing what problems they faced because I could somehow relate to them as well. This visit was important because meeting an author who tells you about their experiences writing their books is really impactful. Their stories and how they accomplished their goals was interesting and relatable to some.
  • My biggest takeaway was that not everything will be perfect, but sometimes it’s for the best.

Another teacher also shared her students’ responses to “What I liked the best was…”

  • How he explained that he went from being bad at writing books to being basically famous.
  • When he explained about his life and how was it. That you can do whatever you want if you propose it.
  • My favorite moment from the author’s visit was seeing his drawing skills live and seeing the Raina Telgemeier books in his presentation. I was surprised to learn that he was inspired by Raina Telgemeier who is also one of my favorite authors.
  • I thought it was interesting how he got the inspiration of real places of his life
  • When he talked about the awards he won as a book writer and how he did it.
  • I wanna read New Kid now because its very inspirational to others.
  • When Mr.Craft showed us an easier way you can draw and not just throw away messed up drawings into better drawing by seeing what you can make out of the messed up drawing.
  • When he started to talk about how he didn’t like to read but now he writes books and has to read for inspiration.
  • When jerry craft started drawing iconic media characters with mundane items. I want to learn more about shape theory.

BUT THERE WAS MORE!

The next day, Jerry Craft surprised my school by COMING BACK TO PLAY IN OUR STUDENT VS. STAFF BASKETBALL GAME!!!

This is more than I could have ever asked for!!!

As you can see from the comments and love, my students and I would highly recommend Jerry for a school visit!

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Educators’ Guide for The Partition Project by Saadia Faruqi

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The Partition Project
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Published: February 27th, 2024 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: When her grandmother comes off the airplane in Houston from Pakistan, Mahnoor knows that having Dadi move in is going to disrupt everything about her life. She doesn’t have time to be Dadi’s unofficial babysitter—her journalism teacher has announced that their big assignment will be to film a documentary, which feels more like storytelling than what Maha would call “journalism”.

As Dadi starts to settle into life in Houston and Maha scrambles for a subject for her documentary, the two of them start talking. About Dadi’s childhood in northern India—and about the Partition that forced her to leave her home and relocate to the newly created Pakistan. As details of Dadi’s life are revealed, Dadi’s personal story feels a lot more like the breaking news that Maha loves so much. And before she knows it, she has the subject of her documentary.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for the author:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about The Partition Project on Saadia Faruqi’s website.

Flagged Passage: View an excerpt HERE.

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Educators’ Guide for The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo

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The Puppets of Spelhorst
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Julie Morstad
Published: October 10th, 2023 by Candlewick Press

Summary: From master storyteller Kate DiCamillo comes an original fairy tale—with enchanting illustrations by Julie Morstad—in which five puppets confront circumstances beyond their control with patience, cunning, and high spirits.

Shut up in a trunk by a taciturn old sea captain with a secret, five friends—a king, a wolf, a girl, a boy, and an owl—bicker, boast, and comfort one another in the dark. Individually, they dream of song and light, freedom and flight, purpose and glory, but they all agree they are part of a larger story, bound each to each by chance, bonded by the heart’s mysteries. When at last their shared fate arrives, landing them on a mantel in a blue room in the home of two little girls, the truth is more astonishing than any of them could have imagined. A beloved author of modern classics draws on her most moving themes with humor, heart, and wisdom in the first of the Norendy Tales, a projected trio of novellas linked by place and mood, each illustrated in black and white by a different virtuoso illustrator. A magical and beautifully packaged gift volume designed to be read aloud and shared, The Puppets of Spelhorst is a tale that soothes and strengthens us on our journey, leading us through whatever dark forest we find ourselves in.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy The Puppets of Spelhorst educators’ guide I created for Candlewick Press:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about The Puppets of Spelhorst on Candlewick’s page.

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Educators’ Guide for Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont by Nick Brooks

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Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont
Author: Nick Brooks
Published: October 4th, 2022 by Union Square Kids

Summary: Something cool happening in Ferrous City? Not a chance.

Until one day . . . when self-proclaimed genius inventor Ethan Fairmont runs into an abandoned car factory to avoid a local bully and accidentally stumbles across his ex-best friend Kareem, new kid Juan Carlos, and an extraterrestrial visitor. Cheese (the alien) is stuck on Earth in need of some serious repairs, spicy snacks—and absolute, total secrecy. That’s easier said than done when mysterious agents descend on Ferrous City to search for Cheese. With time running out and their family and friends in potential danger, can Ethan, Kareem, and Juan Carlos pull off an intergalactic rescue before they’re all found out?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle

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Love Radio
Author: Ebony LaDelle
Published: May 31st, 2022 by Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers

Summary: Hitch meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this novel about a self-professed teen love doctor with a popular radio segment who believes he can get a girl who hates all things romance to fall in love with him in only three dates.

Prince Jones is the guy with all the answers—or so it seems. After all, at seventeen, he has his own segment on Detroit’s popular hip-hop show, Love Radio, where he dishes out advice to the brokenhearted.

Prince has always dreamed of becoming a DJ and falling in love. But being the main caretaker for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and his little brother means his dreams will stay just that and the only romances in his life are the ones he hears about from his listeners. Until he meets Dani Ford.

Dani isn’t checking for anybody. She’s focused on her plan: ace senior year, score a scholarship, and move to New York City to become a famous author. But her college essay keeps tripping her up and acknowledging what’s blocking her means dealing with what happened at that party a few months ago. And that’s one thing Dani can’t do,

When the romantic DJ meets the ambitious writer, sparks fly. Prince is smitten, but Dani’s not looking to get derailed. She gives Prince just three dates to convince her that he’s worth falling for. Three dates for the love expert to take his own advice, and just maybe change two lives forever.

Love, Radio is a 2024 Project Lit Book

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy Love Radio‘s educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Author Guest Post: “Museum Mysteries” by K.H. Saxton, Author of The A&A Detective Agency: The Fairfleet Affair

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“Museum Mysteries”

In The A&A Detective Agency: The Fairfleet Affair, 12-year-old detectives Alex and Asha get their first big case when Dr. Alistair Fairfleet disappears under suspicious circumstances. Dr. Fairfleet, the agency’s primary benefactor, is also the chairman of the Fairfleet Institute and its world-famous museums. As Asha and Alex follow the trail of clues and puzzles that their mentor left behind, they must explore the four main branches of the Institute: the Fairfleet Museum of Art, the Fairfleet Historical Archives, the Fairfleet Center for the Performing Arts, and the Fairfleet Museum of Natural History. These centers of history and culture provide the sleuths with plenty of topics to research and mysteries to investigate, and they present a similar entry point for young readers hoping to learn and engage more deeply with the text.

The Fairfleet Museum of Art

The many masterpieces of the art museum are curated by the equally impressive Dr. Prudence Ito. Admiring the artwork leads Alex and Asha to some important clues as well as more questions. What do an ancient Greek bust of Pallas Athena and a painting of a frog by an elusive French artist have in common? Perhaps that there is more to each of their stories than meets the eye…

Class Activity: You don’t need to travel to Northbrook to give students access to great artwork. Visit a local gallery, explore a student art exhibit at your school, or browse the online collection of a well-known museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Let students pick a piece of artwork for a creative writing exercise, then ask them to write a short fictional narrative inspired by their selection. Give them time to observe the piece, brainstorm, freewrite, and share.

  • Does your piece suggest characters and a conflict?
  • Does it make you think of a particular setting, theme, or mood? Feel free to embrace abstract or creative connections.
  • Can you imagine a story in which the piece of art itself shows up as a key detail, plot point, or symbol?

The Fairfleet Historical Archives

The archives house a wide variety of documents and primary sources related to the history of Northbrook, the Fairfleet family, and the other branches of the Institute. A young archivist named Minnie Mayflower helps the sleuths piece together evidence from the past. As Asha and Alex soon discover, good research is critical to good detective work.

Class Activity: Consider what archival materials exist at your school and what might be available for classroom use—an old yearbook or student newspaper, for example. Allow students to peruse one such source and choose a photograph, article, or something else that interests them for further reflection.

  • What do you notice? What details stand out to you?
  • Can you make any inferences about this moment in the past based on your observations?
  • How does the experience of students at the time seem similar to or different from your own?
  • If you could talk to these students from days gone by, what would you ask them?

The Fairfleet Center for the Performing Arts

Quentin Carlisle, the charismatic but conniving artistic director of the FCPA, tests the detectives’ patience as well as their theatrical knowledge as he prepares for a production of King Lear and gives Alex and Asha some additional insight into the Shakespeare-themed clues of the case.

Class Activity: Have students think of a book or a play that they have both read and seen in performance. For many students, this might be a book that was adapted into a movie. Students should spend a few minutes jotting down notes on what they remember about each version and then address the questions below.

  • How was reading this story different from watching it? Which experience did you prefer and why?
  • What changes were made between the text and the performance? Were these changes necessary or effective?
  • If you were to direct your own performance, what choices would you make? Who would you cast in important roles? What costumes, props, or set details would help you realize your vision?

The Fairfleet Museum of Natural History

The natural history museum and its serious executive curator, Dr. John Wright, are at the heart of The Fairfleet Affair. In the Hall of Cultural Artifacts, objects like the Nabataean Zodiac fascinate Asha and Alex and lead them to contemplate questions about museum curation, provenance, and cultural heritage.

Class Activity: Students should pick an object from home that is especially meaningful to them and then imagine that a museum curator 200 years in the future is trying to decide how best to display or share this object with the public.

  • Where and how should the object be displayed? What other items or artifacts might be nearby? What would you call the exhibit?
  • What information should be included on the museum placard?
  • Does the object have personal, family, or cultural significance for you? Do you think that the museum can honor this special meaning? If so, how? If not, what fate would you prefer for the object?

Published September 19, 2023 by Union Square & Co.

About the Book: Follow clues, solve puzzles, crack the code… find the missing millionaire.

The celebrated museums of the Fairfleet Institute are known for curating the mysteries of humanity. But they don’t solve mysteries. Luckily, twelve-year-old friends Alex Foster and Asha Singh of the A&A Detective Agency do. Or they will . . . once they get a real case to test their skills as sleuths.

When Dr. Alistair Fairfleet, the institute’s eccentric chairman, disappears on the first day of Alex and Asha’s summer vacation, they receive a letter written by the missing millionaire himself inviting them to a game involving complicated clues and puzzles. It is just the sort of case they’ve been waiting to tackle. But nothing in the Fairfleet case has a simple solution. As the kids track down clues, they uncover art forgeries, archaeological crimes, and Fairfleet family secrets. All of this tests their partnership and forces them to confront the complicated legacies of the people and places they admire most.

Praise for the Book: 

““[T]he intricate plot—jam-packed with brain teasers, convoluted twists, and red herrings—keeps readers in suspense while neatly paving the way for a sequel in Saxton’s series-starting debut.” —Publishers Weekly

“A complex, cinematic, and eclectic page-turner.” – Kirkus

“Saxton reveals a knack for constructing a mystery, planting baffling clues, and creating interesting characters of varied ages Tension rises and falls, but the pace of the narrative never falters, and readers will enjoy seeing the puzzle pieces fall into place during the satisfying conclusion. A smart, involving first novel.”—Booklist

“Young readers will find The Fairfleet Affair a solid introduction to the genre and will, most likely, look forward to forthcoming Northbrook crimes the A&A duo can solve.” —New York Journal of Books

“Full of clues and puzzle pieces to ponder, this complicated mystery will keep readers guessing all the way until the end.”—School Library Journal / Teen Librarian Toolbox

About the Author: K. H. Saxton is an English teacher and boarding school administrator in Connecticut. The A&A Detective Agency: The Fairfleet Affair is her first novel.

Thank you, K.H., for these amazing activities that tie into your book!

Educators’ Guide for Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: New School Skirmish by Zoe Tokushige, Illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar

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Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: New School Skirmish
Author: Zoe Tokushige
Illustrator: Jennifer Naalchigar
Published: September 20, 2022 by Philomel Books

Summary: A hilarious story of new-school hijinks, filled with friendship, family, and plenty of pranks–perfect for fans of Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Meet Airi Sano. After spending her entire childhood moving from one military base to another, she’s excited to be settling down for the long-term in Hawai’i. She’s less excited about her new teacher, who’s determined to make Airi like school. But she’s got a plan: prank her teacher so hard that she gives up on even trying to get Airi to do any work–especially any reading.

But Mrs. Ashton won’t give up, no matter what Airi does. Airi will need the help of her new classmates–who might even be her new friends–to get Mrs. Ashton to crack. It’s time . . . for a prank war!

With fun and funny black-and-white illustrations throughout, New School Skirmish kicks off a brand-new series for readers to adore!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for New School Skirmish:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

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